By Stewart Storrar
Nore: This article was written as a guest post by someone who does audiobooks professionally.
The audiobook marketplace has exploded with tens of thousands of new titles in the past few years.
The global audiobooks market size was valued at $2.67 billion US in 2019 and is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 24.4% from 2020 to 2027. That's a lot of audiobooks sales!
As more and more people begin to switch to audiobooks rather than reading eBooks, the ePublishing sphere has seen an increase in demand for audiobooks which means that authors are scrambling to supply that demand. Be it fiction or non-fiction; audiobooks are now becoming an industry staple.
The popularity of audiobooks can perhaps be attributed to them being used passively. People want to make the most of their time, so listening to an audiobook while driving, in the gym, or cooking, is becoming a more common practice. Getting your book made into an audiobook is an ideal way to tap into this growing audience.
So, the question now is, how do you self-publish an audiobook?
Today we will cover:
· What you will need to record the audiobook
· What you will need to produce the final sound file
· How to distribute your final audiobook
I've written this guide to point you in the right direction for each stage, to introduce you to the audiobook production process.
Recording an Audiobook
Producing the audiobook is no easy feat and will take technical knowledge to complete. The process of making the individual sound files will take weeks of your time at a minimum, and that is just the actual recording of the audio, not the organization and editing of the files. The basics you will need for recording the audio files are as follows:
· A microphone and stand (do not hold it)
· A pop shield for the microphone
· A set of studio headphones for audio playback
· Essential sound insulation set up (to get rid of reverb, sound refraction, and so on)
· A MAC or PC capable of supporting the hardware you have
· A recording application to record your narration
Many people make the common mistake of thinking they can use a gaming headset or a microphone and headphone all-in-one set for recording. I can't stress enough: don't do this! These headsets' audio quality is fine for things like Zoom meetings but not for professional audiobooks.
A condenser microphone is the best option in terms of microphones, as the quality you will get will be worth the investment. They are highly sensitive microphones and will pick up even the tiniest whisper. This is why we need sound insulation set up (but more on that later). A condenser microphone is so sensitive that it will even pick up noises that you won't want in the audio, such as pops and clicks.
This is where the pop filter comes in. The pop filter gets rid of these unwanted airflow sounds that don't sound too good. You can buy or make one. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube if you choose the latter. If you choose a condenser microphone, you will also need an audio interface to connect the mic. Focusrite has a reasonably-priced package deal, 'Scarlett Solo Studio', which includes a mic, interface, and headphones.
On the subject of headphones, you will want to get closed-back headphones. These are best for audio playback as they don't allow sound to escape the headphones themselves, like regular headphones for listening to music. These headphones will enable you to hear everything naturally, which is perfect for editing.
The last major thing you will probably need to get (that you probably won't have lying around) is sound insulation. Wherever you decide to record, you will need to insulate your environment to get the best sound quality possible. You can create makeshift sound-insulated environments by using pillows, curtains, or sheets. Again, there are plenty of DIY setups you can find on YouTube. If you have more money, you can invest in acoustic panels. Some people even convert their spare room or closet into a recording booth!
Most modern PCs or MACs will be able to use all this hardware without any issues. Do make sure you install the proper hardware drivers so that your computer can use the hardware more effectively. Again, YouTube has a wealth of tutorials for this, if you are unsure. You will also need to get an application to record your voice. Audacity is a good, free option.
Now it's just narrating the text! I would recommend recording pre-defined sections at one time. Feel free to break it up as you see fit, but usually, breaking it up into Chapters or even a few pages at a time is the best method. Be sure to number the files in chronological order for ease of editing later on.
Producing the Final Audio File
To produce the final audio file, you will first need an audio editing suite to construct your file. I would recommend using ProTools or Adobe Audition for this. These are professional, industry-standard tools and have the correct software specifications to create professional audio. The downside is that they can be expensive. You will also need to learn how to use them, but there are plenty of tutorials online to help you.
Fun fact: I used to run YouTube channels and have made over 300 videos. I achieved this by watching other YouTube tutorials demonstrating how to use professional video editing software!
Learning like this is quite common nowadays but could be used a lot more.
Producing the final file will consist of editing the different parts of the audiobook; including sound effects and music if needed. Of course, the music and sound effects will need to be acquired. You can search for Creative Commons 2.0 licensed audio or license audio from bands or stock sites. Be sure to adhere to the technical specifications listed here – if you don't, distributors like Audible will not accept your audiobook.
Distributing the Audiobook
Distributing an audiobook is not like distributing a regular eBook or trade paperback. There are a few ways to do this, but if you plan on getting your audiobook onto iTunes, Audible, and Amazon, then ACX is the way forward for you. ACX is very similar to KDP in that it will distribute your audiobook much like KDP distributes your eBook.
ACX will take you through the process of preparing your final audiobook file for the market. Treat ACX as you would KDP. They have an incredible information center you can find here about getting your audiobook out on the market. One of the downsides is you have very little control over things like pricing with ACX like you do with KDP. Another big downside is that after you publish your audiobook via ACX for iTunes, Audible, and Amazon, it will remain exclusive to ACX for seven years. This means you can't sell it anywhere else.
There are non-exclusive ACX options, but this will offer you fewer royalties in return. The upside is that you can distribute your audiobook on other platforms like Google Play.
Hosting the file entirely independently is another option. Many website builders now offer e-store plugins, and so you can essentially sell your audiobook file as downloadable content. If you have a custom site, consulting a web developer about how best to approach this would be ideal.
Making an audiobook can be a complex and very challenging endeavor but also a rewarding one. The barrier to entry, monetary wise, is higher than that of regular eBooks, but the result is a spectacular rendition of your book. If you do not have the time needed to build a home studio and narrate the book yourself, outsourcing to an audiobook narration specialist like Voquent is an option. The additional expense of using a service provider pays for itself as you can focus your time on writing your next novel.
No matter what method you choose, doing it yourself or outsourcing, making an audiobook is an achievement, and I hope this brief guide has given you some inspiration about where to start.